There’s quite a few K-dramas being shown in TV nowadays – as a matter of fact did you know that ABS-CBN has aired over thirty K-drama shows since 2011? The “First and True Home of Asianovelas” seem to favor airing shows like Goblin, The King is In Love, Doctor Crush and whole slew of other shows too many to mention.
Now do all of these shows have in common?
They're all love stories.
Based on the quantity of shows like this being aired on T.V., it seems that Filipinos just simply adore stories about love overcoming the odds and reaching that well-earned “happily ever after”. After all, that’s the point of entertainment media, to make us happy by showing how good life can be if you just try hard enough.
But after the 10th or so time, it’s normal to crave for something a little bit different. People like seeing something new, or weird, or exciting to push unforeseen twists and surprising turns to this timeless genre. Unsurprisingly, Korean film also has many variants of a love story where they deviate from the norm. Some may seem familiar, but all of them showcase the value of love amidst this strange, strange world we live in.
Here are 5 unconventionally romantic Korean movies you may or may not have head of!
1. A Werewolf Boy (2012)
In my humble and essentially irrelevant opinion, werewolves are a tad bit underused in mainstream media. Compared to vampires the ration of high quality werewolf movies is rather low. Vampire movies has branched onto many genres over the years it’s staggering. But Werewolves? They kind of fall back into the B-Horror variety, being seen as mere monsters for the heroes to gun down.
This movie is quite a nice subversion of that. The film predominantly takes place in the South Korean countryside. We follow the main heroine Kim Sun-yi, a sixty-year-old woman returning home to her homeland after hearing about possibly selling her old family home. During her visit, she meets her granddaughter who makes her recall events that have occured 47 years ago. These events elaborate her meetings with a strange young feral boy from a place unknown, a werewolf. From this point on, the movie focuses on how she met, taught, and ultimately loved the werewolf boy. Taking place in post war Korea, the setting is bleak in tone, but is still able to show the love and beauty just hiding under the seams.
2. A Man in Love (2014)
Crime is perhaps the most enticing for those who lack power. There are some people who wish to supplement their faults and weaknesses by imposing whatever power they have unto others. People begin to lose track of what it means to care and become cold hearted. Such is the situation of one Tae-il, a low-level thug who “persuades” people into forking over money for "Protection". He’s mostly content with his lifestyle in the ripe age of 42, but all that changes when he meets Ho-jung, a young bank clerk taking care of her ill – debt ridden father.
Tae-il find himself sympathizing with Ho-jung, and becomes instantly smitten. Tae-il revises his boss’s usual contract. Instead of money, she’ll have to go on dates with him instead to lessen the debt. After many “awkward”, dates his personality begins to shift. He becomes more good-natured and forgiving. However, just as the unlikely romance between the two begin to blossom, Tae-il is diagnosed with cancer. Now it’s a race against time to deal with his gang, his sickness and his relationship with Ho-jung. What follows is a tragic, funny, and ultimately heartwarming story about how love changes people for the better, even if they look really awkward doing it.
3. A Bittersweet Life (2005)
Kim Sun-woo is at the top. He works as a high-ranking enforcer for his boss Kang, a cold and calculating crime lord that tolerates nothing other than perfection. They share pretty amicable partnership, but all that changes when Kang entrusts Kim to look after his mistress, Hee-Soo, whom he fears is having an affair with someone else. If I would guess, you’d be saying something along the lines of “I know where this is going.”.
Well, you’re about half right with that assumption. The movie subverts quite many of the tropes seen in these “love redeems” stories but it still arrives at the same conclusion. It pulls no punches on what it means to choose love over power. Sun-Woo goes through many horrible events just for the love he felt for Hee-Soo. We see a man lash out at those that have denied him this beautiful feeling for most of his life, and it is very brutal in its presentation. It reaches a point where Sun-Woo seems to be almost madly in love, as in he's gone insane in his persuit of this fleeting love. But in the end, the movie shows that true love is indeed worth the hell, even if it’s just a passing dream.
4. Illang: The Wolf Brigade (2018)
In the far future of 2029, North and South Korea are finally getting unified. But this process puts Korea into complete anarchy, with terrorist groups using whatever means possible to disrupt the union. To ensure the success of the re-unification process, the south Korean government creates a secret unit called the “Wolf Brigade” to “pacify” the group – and consequently anyone that goes against the newly established Korean government.
The lead of the film is named Im Joong-kyung, a member of that very same Wolf Brigade. He meets a mysterious woman named Lee Yoon-hee. A bookstore owner fascinated by the Tale of Red Riding Hood and how the old fable parallels with the cruel world around her. Despite his efforts, he ultimately falls for her. Things come to a head as Joong-kyung’s feelings for Yoon-hee puts him at odds with his country, and he is forced to decide where his loyalties truly lie. Love or duty?
We’ve given you guys a supernatural movie, a comedy drama, and crime noir movie, we added this one for the Sci-fi fans. I would say that this film is sort of an odd combination of the previous three films mentioned. It’s got werewolf imagery, and it’s about the choice between love and duty. If your special someone likes action films, this movie serves as good compromise!
5. The Beauty Inside (2015)
Love is weird and bafflingly complicated. People say that to find love, you need to be true to yourself while at the same time presenting that truthfulness in a wholesome and appealing way. But what happens when your “True-self” changes every single time? This is the fate befallen to the unfortunate Woo-jin, a man who wakes up with a different face, body, age, nationality and sometimes gender every morning. The situation gets even more complicated when he falls for a girl named Yi-soo. As a whole, the films tackles the limits of love. To ask if you can you still love someone even if they become irrevocably different from what they were before?
Can the beauty within triumph over the judgment of those who can only see the outside?
Well, to know that, you’ll have to watch the movie. In a way, it's the most conventional romance in this list, but I think that’s what makes it so appealing.
Seeing these movies back-to-back just makes you appreciate the creativity that goes into these kind of films. All of them were based on the classic love story, about overcoming adversity for the sake of your loved ones. But each of them are able to stand out by adding interesting and clever twists to their narratives. Now, keep that in mind when browsing Netflix for your next movie or show to binge.
A fun twist to the established genre can go a long way towards making something really special.
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